Steele, Davidson Questionable When Bama Meets Cats

ATLANTA (AP) - Southeastern Conference coaches gave Vanderbilt a
sweep of the leagues top two awards.
Senior swingman Derrick Byars was named player of the year and
Kevin Stallings was picked as coach of the year in balloting by
league coaches announced Wednesday.
Those choices differed from The Associated Press All-SEC team,
which is selected by the media. Tennessee's Chris Lofton edged
Byars by a single vote for player of the year, while Andy Kennedy
of Mississippi beat out Stallings by the same close margin for the
coaching award.
The coaches picked Arkansas' Patrick Beverly as the top
freshman, mirroring the AP's choice for top newcomer, and named
Steven Hill of Arkansas the top defensive player and Florida's
Chris Richard the best sixth man.
Another Florida player, Lee Humphrey, was honored as the
scholar-athlete of the year. He has a 3.68 grade-point average in
applied physiology.
The coaches' first team included Byars, Lofton, Kentucky's
Randolph Morris, LSU's Glen Davis, Mississippi State's Jamont
Gordon, South Carolina's Tre' Kelley and three players from
regular-season champion Florida: Corey Brewer, Al Horford and
Joakim Noah.
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BANGED-UP BAMA: Alabama knew that point guard Ronald Steele
would be questionable for the SEC tournament. He's nursed a sore
knee most of the season.
But Jermareo Davidson appears to be in worse shape.
The senior center hurt his back in Sunday's regular-season
finale, a 91-67 loss at Mississippi State. He hasn't been able to
practice since then, sitting out Wednesday's workout at the Georgia
Dome.
"I actually feel better about Ron playing than I do Jermareo,"
coach Mike Gottfried said.
Steele ha missed five games and never really been at full
strength this season. But he was able to practice Wednesday and
seems likely to be on the court when the Crimson Tide faces
Kentucky in the opening round.
"I don't expect him to be 100 percent," Gottfried said. "And
if he thinks he's hurting the team, then I would agree with him to
come out of the game. But even Ron Steele at 75 percent can be
effective in certain areas."
Davidson is the Tide's second-leading scorer (14.2 points a
game) and top rebounder (8.4). He's also averaging nearly 2½
blocks.
This has been a difficult season for Davidson, who returns to
the city where his girlfriend was killed in a November car wreck.
Davidson, a passenger in the vehicle, sustained only minor injuries
but missed two games and withdrew from fall semester classes.
"It's still with me," he said. "There comes a time when I've
got to find a way to put it to the side. I have my moments that are
kind of tough, but I've got to do it for myself and for my team."
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SEEDING SNAFU: Mississippi and Mississippi State both had .500
records in the SEC, but they received a bye in the opening round of
the tournament.
But Tennessee, which went 10-6, and Kentucky, at 9-7, both have
to play Thursday.
Is that fair?
The league may have to give its seeding system another look
after the Eastern teams put up much better numbers than those West.
Ole Miss and Mississippi State shared the SEC West title despite
going just 8-8. Georgia had the same conference mark and finished
fifth in the East.
Florida, the overall league champion, went 13-3 in the league,
while fellow East teams Vanderbilt (10-6), Tennessee and Kentucky
also had better records than anyone in the West.
Kentucky coach Tubby Smith expects the SEC to discuss a revised
formula that would lump all the teams together, giving the top four
a bye regardless of which division they're in.
"That's something that I'm sure will be discussed," he said.
"It probably would be beneficial to evaluate and see if that's
possible."
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BIG BABY'S REDEMPTION: Glen Davis was held to a season-low 5
points when he faced Tennessee during the regular season.
Big Baby gets another shot at the Vols in the opening round of
the SEC tournament.
"I didn't establish myself in the post like I should have,"
Davis said. "I took bad shots. It's all about timing with the
shots I took. I took some shots at the wrong time. I should have
established myself inside more, just worked the block, played
inside out."
Davis had trouble watching a replay of his performance. In fact,
he flipped off the tape after viewing about half the game.
"They didn't double-team me as much as I thought," Davis said.
"They threw a couple of guys at me here and there, but there were
times when I could have made some adjustments and made some moves,
some quick moves, to get to the basket for some easy 2s."
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HEATH'S FUTURE: With Arkansas in danger of again missing the
NCAA tournament, coach Stan Heath is definitely on the hot seat in
Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks failed to make the tournament in Heath's first
three seasons, and they were knocked out in the opening round last
season.
Arkansas (18-12, 7-9) finished third in the SEC West this season
and likely needs to win a couple of games in the conference
tournament to merit consideration again.
Heath, who came to Arkansas after taking Kent State to the
regional finals in his first season as a head coach, has a record
of 79-69 in five years at the SEC school. A powerhouse under former
coach Nolan Richardson, the Razorbacks are 31-49 in the conference
since Heath took over.
"I learned that a long time ago that there's pressure in this
profession," Heath said. "Every game could possibly be your last
game. So my concern has been to make sure my players are focused on
playing the game, playing as hard as they can, playing to have some
fun, and playing out there together. As long as I'm keeping my
players and their mind-set in that direction, I'm fine."


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